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Ben S. asks:” Is rubber mulch more flammable than wood mulch? This seems to be a concern about all mulches since we experienced the October fires.”

According to a Consumer Reports test, “rubber mulch burned much hotter and faster than wood mulch and was much harder to put out.” Imagine burning tires.

Those gardeners in high fire risk areas should not use rubber mulch.

The jury is out regarding the benefits of using rubber mulch and the negative degree of toxicity to humans (zinc) and soil health.

Does it repel termites and carpenter ants? Yes, but another study shows it has been “the preferred mulch for the female and nymphal stage of Asian cockroaches. It seems to be a personal choice of each homeowner whether to use the product or not.

A reader asks: “What is a desirable self-fruitful white fig that will do well in western Sonoma County, which is a little cooler than Santa Rosa?”

“Genoa,” a white fig does well along the California coast and coastal valleys. The skin is greenish yellow and fruit is a light strawberry color. It happens to be a favorite and is delicious.

You did not mention the fact you might have a gopher problem. If you do, make sure to cage the root ball with a large and generous gopher barrier. They like fig trees, too.

Chrissy N. asks: Can you suggest some plants that are for bee nectar?

That is a big order since there are so many. Here are some favorites that are also deer resistant and conserve water once established.

Arctostaphylos, ‘Emerald Carpet,’ an evergreen ground cover shrub

Gaillardia x grandiflora, ‘Fanfare,’ a colorful perennial for sunny exposures

Lavandula, all varieties, but ‘Goodwin Creek’ and ‘Grosso’ are fine choices

Lavatera maritima, bicolor. Tall evergreen shrub

Nepeta mussini, all summer purple flowers

Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’

Origanum vulgare, all varieties

Rosmarinus, all varieties

Rudbeckia fulgida “Viette’s Little Suzy”, R. fulgida var. Sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’

Salvia “Indigo Spires”

Salvia ‘Bees Bliss,’ also for hummingbirds

Stachys byzantina

Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Moerheimii’

Bidens ferulifolia ‘Pete’s Gold Carpet’

Eschscholzia californica, ‘Buttermild’ and ‘Orange King’

Teucrium chamaedrys

Thank you to Emerisa Gardens for their nectar list. This was only a portion of possibilities.

Shirley asks: I purchased a sun choke at one of the local plant sales. What can you tell me about its cultural requirements and growth habits?

Sun chokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes and botanically as Helianthus tuberosa.

It is a herbaceous perennial that can reach a height of 6 to 10 feet and should be planted in full sun to the rear of the garden given their height. They make a colorful background screen when planted in mass. The beautiful flowers are medium-sized and resemble sunflowers.

They are very easy to grow and thrive with no fertilizer in both light and heavy soil. Unfortunately, gophers find them delicious too. Sunchokes require occasional water but can become a pest if cut pieces of their harvested tubers are tossed in the garden as they readily create new plants.

Gardeners enjoy the edible tubers that are harvested in the fall after the first frost. Mulch them heavily if you leave them in the ground. That way the “chokes” can still be harvested as needed.

Jen asks: How can I tell if my melons are ready to harvest? I am thinking ahead so I will be knowledgeable when it is time to harvest. This is my first try growing melons.

The following are three indications of melon ripeness. If your melon fits into any of the three, then the melon should be ready to harvest:

The connection between the stem and the fruit is dry and scablike, with whitish threads extending from the stem to the melon.

The stem slips from the fruit end with only slight pressure.

Smell the end of the melon without a stem and if it is fragrant, then it is ripe.

Sally writes: If I overhead water my vegetable plants, will it knock off the flowers?

Not unless they were going to fall off anyway. If a flower fails to set, in a few days an abscission layer forms at a node and soon will drop off. The fertilized flowers and fruits remain well secured to the plant and it is almost impossible to pull or knock them off. (Exceptions include kids, cats, dogs, balls, etc.)

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at pressdemocrat.com

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